Once every couple of years I get an itch to have a garage sale. I’ve had a few, enough to know not to try it again, but something draws me back.
Garage sales are popular, part of Americana, perhaps more so now when money is tight but the urge to shop remains strong.
These events allow us to fill our garages with stuff we no longer need or want but hope someone else does. And someone else almost always does.
Here in Southwest Florida, garage and yard sales are especially popular in “season” and as we know, arrival of the snowbirds is nigh.
We’ve done a couple of yard sales over the years and joined other people’s now and then, having only a few precious belongings to brighten someone else’s life. Here is a composite of a few garage/yard sale memorable moments:
A guy pulls into the driveway, blocking walk-up customers access. He looks around for 30-45 seconds, spots a piece of art and offers us 50 cents for it. It’s a signed lithograph by Peter Max. Maybe that’s how he got rich, but he didn’t get our Max.
One lady arrived and announced that she was looking for champagne flutes. She left soon after, having bought a pair of old sneakers.
“How much for this half-full bottle of cleaning fluid?” a woman asked me.
“Three dollars,” I said.
“But a new bottle at the store only costs $3.50,” she said.
“Yeah, but with this, you know it works or it wouldn’t be half-empty” I replied.
“Oh. Well, how about $2.50 then?”
Done deal. I think that’s called marketing savvy on my part.
Ashtrays used to be big sellers. I’m not sure why. Top sellers were the ones that had the name of some place on them. “See Rock City” ashtrays went quickly. But we couldn’t give away a “Cypress Gardens” ashtray. Now that the dusty Florida attraction has closed, I’ll bet an old ashtray with the defunct logo would bring a pretty penny.
Many “salers” say as they arrive, “Your prices are way out of line.” In one case that was true.
I bought a bungee cord device for $1 at a Marco Island dollar store, and sold it at a garage sale for $1.50.
A much tougher sale was the speaker. One stereo speaker, which was once part of a matched set. The other one had been lost in the fog of family history. It’s probably still in the back of a moving van from 1983.
But we figured some other person who had only one stereo speaker might love to get this one at a bargain to complete the set. We had no takers. Even the person who paid almost top dollar for half a bottle of cleaning fluid laughed out loud at the idea of buying just one speaker.
“Think of it as monaural,” I nudged.
“Think of it as a minimalist approach to your sound environment,” I implored. No sale. Today, that old thing might sell as a relic, an antique, a reminder of the hip, hippie days of yore.
Who knows, in 10 years we might find old 2009 iPods on a garage sale table, next to a Walkman and a phone that did nothing but make and take calls.
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Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor.